Thread: Sheriff Ralph
08-02-2007, 01:55 PM #1
- Join Date
- Mar 2006
- Santa Rosa Beach
How does he do it?.......keep getting re-elected that is?
Discrimination charge filed
Former deputies say Walton County sheriff fired them because they are pregnant
By HEATHER CIVIL firstname.lastname@example.org
DeFUNIAK SPRINGS — Two women say Walton County Sheriff Ralph Johnson fired them because they are pregnant. Former deputies Melissa Vause and Kristen Infinger have filed a discrimination complaint against the Sheriff ’s Office with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The women say Johnson designed a new medical leave policy as a way to fire pregnant employees.
“I do feel that he’s got something against deputies being pregnant,” Infinger said.
Johnson denies firing the women because they are pregnant, and said that Infinger and Vause are eligible to be rehired. However, he admitted that their former jobs may not be available.
“We have not said they will not be rehired,” he said.
Johnson rewrote the medical leave policy in February after both women had told their supervisors that they were pregnant. The new policy took effect March 15.
It eliminates the option of working modified, or “light duty,” shifts for nonwork- related medical conditions or injuries.
A Sheriff ’s Office employee who cannot perform regular duties is given five options under the new policy. An employee must either take time off, request permanent reassignment to a job he or she can do, apply for family medical leave, file a worker’s compensation claim, or “separate from employment.”
Vause and Infinger say they were told to take 12 weeks off under the Family Medical Leave Act not long after the new policy took effect.
“I was told to go home and take leave because there was no more light duty,” Infinger said.
She said Johnson fired her when she couldn’t return to regular duty after her 12-weeks of leave because she was still pregnant.
Vause said the same thing happened to her about a week later.
Johnson said he had no choice because Vause and Infinger could not return to their duties after the leave ran out, as required by the new policy. The Sheriff ’s Office acted in accordance with the Family Medical Leave Act, he said.
“We’re just trying to comply with the law,” he said.
Michael Rudicell, the attorney for Vause and Infinger, said it is not an accident that Johnson rewrote the medical leave policy after learning of their pregnancies.
“We believe this modified duty is aimed at the pregnant officers,” Rudicell said.
Johnson said that Vause and Infinger’s complaints are “discrimination” against the Sheriff ’s Office.
He added that he only tried to come up with a policy “that’s fair to everybody.”
“Sometimes it gets outta my control and there ain’t nothing I can do about it,” he said.
Infinger worked as a deputy for the Sheriff ’s Office since December 2004. She was fired May 24.
Vause started as a deputy in 2003 and was promoted to investigator in January 2004. She was fired July 2.
Johnson said Vause and Infinger were under doctors’ orders not to return to work.
However, the women say that is not the case.
Vause, who is diabetic, said she did not need to take medical leave. She only asked that she not be on call at night, she said.
Infinger was also willing to continue working during her pregnancy.
However, the Sheriff ’s Office would not allow her to keep her patrol duties for safety reasons. The Sheriff ’s Office did not give her the option of taking a different position, she said.
The EEOC is reviewing the complaint against Johnson and will decide whether there is probable cause to conduct an investigation, Rudicell said.
In the meantime, Vause and Infinger say they will have to rely on their husbands’ income until the babies arrive.
Vause is scheduled to deliver a baby girl today.
Infinger will give birth to a son in September.
“I don’t think that it’s fair for my family to suffer because he (the sheriff) chose to discriminate against a pregnant female,” Vause said.
Infinger said she wants her job back.
“This is what I do,” she said. “Really, this is all I know how to do.”
Vause said she has not decided if she would return to the Sheriff ’s Office. She’s worried that once the complaint is resolved, she could face retribution there.
“I would have to see,” she said.
Daily News Staff Writer
Heather Civil can be reached
Re: Sheriff Ralph
I cannot comment on the issue itself, for obvious reasons. But, it is disappointing to me that trash on the beach gathers five pages of posts, but a serious issue regarding employer/employee relations of a local elected official gets no replies.Go Seminoles...fight team fight...SCALP'EM!!
The Following User Says Thank You to ShallowsNole For This Useful Post:
08-03-2007, 03:10 PM #4
Re: Sheriff Ralph
the walton county taxpayers are conducting a "survey". It is clear from the questions that they support the sheriff budget, BUT want employees to pay for part of their health care! Not a caring way to treat the employees of this county at all!Clean water - Good for the soul !
It's Better To Wear Out, Than Rust!